The Terriers exited a busy weekend in Chicago at the National Hockey League Draft with a total of seven commits and current players alike hearing their names called by NHL organizations.
Two of these high-level performers, center Shane Bowers and goaltender Jake Oettinger, were selected in the first round of the draft, while five other Terriers were swiped in the subsequent rounds of the seven-round selection process.
Oettinger was the first Terrier to come off the board. The Dallas Stars, originally had the 29th selection, but they traded up to select their goaltender of the future, Oettinger, with the 26th overall pick.
Two draft picks later the next Terrier was chosen, as incoming freshman center Shane Bowers was snatched by the Ottawa Senators at No. 28.
BU’s own Kasper Kotsansalo, Cameron Crotty and David Farrance were drafted in the third round to the Detroit Red Wings, Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators respectively. Logan Cockerill, was picked by the New York Islanders in the seventh round. The Terriers even saw a 2018 recruit, Ryan O’Connell, drafted in the seventh round by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Boston University men’s hockey program has become a formidable producer of NHL talent. For the second straight season, the Terriers had more players and commits drafted than any other university.
There was a vast difference between the Terriers’ and other schools’ draft output, given that the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania State University were the runners-up with four players and commits drafted each.
Having so many NHL draftees involved with the BU team has made the road to the NHL easier for those who are just experiencing the draft process for the first time, Oettinger said before the draft.
“Having guys that have already been drafted, you can pick their brains,” Oettinger said. “It is also nice for me to practice with guys who are going to be playing in the NHL day in and day out. It pushes me to be better.”
While the other major professional sports prevent teams from owning the rights to a player while the player plays collegiately, NHL franchises are awarded this authority. Once a college prospect has been selected, they can choose to return to school. The team which selected them will retain the exclusive right to sign that player until 30 days after the player leaves the university.
Terrier fans need not weep after witnessing Bowers and Oettinger hear their names called on Friday night. The college ranks can serve as a minor league of sorts for NHL prospects, grooming these players throughout the season until they are ready to join the big league club.
The BU faithful witnessed this process through 2016-2017 with the likes of Clayton Keller to the Coyotes, as well as Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to the Boston Bruins, who each played the entire season with the Terriers.
For Oettinger, this weekend served as a dream come true. The netminder was slated by many pundits as a late first-rounder, and that prediction was on the money.
“I’ve wanted to play in the NHL since I was a little kid and started playing hockey,” Oettinger said. “That’s a dream that I have had. I’m really working hard towards it.”
He finished the season first in Hockey East with a goals against average of 2.12 and third in the conference with a save percentage of .927 — all while leading his team to a 14-6-3 record. His two shutouts were also the third-highest tally in the conference.
Prior to the draft, Oettinger’s anticipation levels were measurable.
“It is going to be a huge rush of joy and gratitude [when I hear my name called],” Oettinger said. “A feeling that I probably won’t even be able to describe. There has been a lot of practice and hard work that has gone into getting me where I am today. It’s going to be a great feeling, the start of hopefully a long career.”
One of Oettinger’s greatest strengths is undoubtedly his glove hand, which served as a brick wall throughout his first season with the Terriers. He also displayed a level mindset in high-pressure situations in his freshman season, something that he thinks should help him as he plays at the next level.
“[I am] pretty calm and controlled,” Oettinger said. “I think [being technically sound] is going to help me at the next level.”